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Santander Sugar Group Conducts Fully Mechanized Harvest

Santander Sugar Group

Posted: Wednesday, February 8, 2023. 1:48 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: Santander Sugar Group remains one of the youngest in the sugar business in Belize, but despite their youth, they have grown to become the best in the business boasting fully mechanized harvesting and ever-increasing yields.

This year as Santander Sugar Group is celebrating its 8th annual harvest, the company is also celebrating not only its success over the years but the fact that it is the only sugar company from Panama to Mexico that conducts a fully mechanized harvest. This not only allows increasing productivity, saves time, and produces quality products, but reduces health hazards among employees, swapping it in for safety, and comfort.

Juan Cruz, the workshop harvest manager at the company indicated, ‘’What does that mean? It means that we don’t have one single person in the field cutting cane with a machete, which as we all know is one of the hardest jobs. All of our crew are out driving machines on air-cushioned seats and in air conditioners and all of our machinery is nothing but state-of-the-art.’’

Since the commencement of its harvest in January, the hardworking crew is currently about 10% into this year’s harvest. As they are racing against time, to harvest every single piece of cane before the rainy season commences in June, the harvest crew’s main goal is to feed or deliver cane 24 hours a day to the factory to keep it running.

To achieve this feat, the company has had to improve not only its harvest team consisting of over 200 employees but has had to upgrade its vehicle and mechanical fleet to get the job done on time. The harvest is teamwork, working in fronts that consist of tractors, each equipped with a self-keeping wagon, harvester, harvest trucks, and several cane wagons, all of which work in tandem with each other so that the process could move as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

”So what we try to do is to take the cane as fresh and as clean as possible to the sugar mill. So we try to cut the stem of the cane from the lowest point possible because the biggest content of sugar grows in the stem, closest to the soil. But at the same time, the cane grows back like grass, so you cut it and it grows back up. The only way it won’t grow back up is if you remove the root so we really need to be careful when harvesting. After the cane is cut, it is lifted through a system of rollers as a long cane and then it reaches a chopper which cuts the long piece of cane into small pieces around 8 to 10 inches. After it has been cut it is expelled into a basket that is on the bottom of the bin, which lifts the machine to the wagon and while it is in the air, there is a really big fan that blows away the leaves and anything else that is not heavy. The cane falls into the bin which is then lifted and thrown into the self-keeping wagons,’’ explained Cruz.

But even before the harvest, preparations for the best sugar crop season actually start beforehand and as Cruz explained it. According to him, from the length of the farrows, the distance and the height are perfectly planned and executed as best as possible to ensure the best harvest. The fact that Belize’s soil mostly consists of clay, which makes it hard for water to filter out, Cruz said that the company has had to customize its equipment to adapt to the soil quality and weather conditions in Belize.

Santander Sugar Group is family-owned and has been operational in Belize for many years where it has produced quality sugar, molasses, and even energy, which it sells to the national grid.


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